If you’re familiar with the series, you’ll know the type of hijinx Mario and Sonic whip up when they join each other for an outing of sports, gymnastics, and everything in between. It’s been four long years since we’ve seen Mario and Sonic together, as they were absent from the 2018 Pyeongchang games. For the 2020 Olympics, the whole group has gathered in Tokyo. As the game opens up, you’ll notice many recognizable features, games, and aspects. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is the sixth entry to the series. Sega knows what needs to go into a game of this calibre. Since 2007, Sega has been developing the Mario Party of sports games, switching between summer and winter games. The game does a wonderful job sticking to its roots but doesn’t take too many liberties in its gameplay. Series veterans will find themselves at home, and newcomers should be able to get comfortable in the first few hours.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 includes a full-fledged story mode. Of course, Mario and Sonic can’t meet up without their respective villains doing the same and orchestrating some sort of harebrained plot to thwart our beloved mascots. Dr. Eggman and Bowser concoct a way to send Mario and Sonic back to 1964, the year Tokyo previously held the Olympics. Obviously, nothing goes to plan and a small group of characters, including Dr. Eggman and Bowser, are all pulled into the past. It’s up to Luigi and the remaining Mario and Sonic cast to help their friends get back to the present day. The campaign serves as a way of introducing players to each of the mini-games with some cute banter and text-based dialogue in between. So far, the dialogue has been on the heavier side. Considering how quick the mini-games are, the interactions between characters have been the main focus of the campaign. The difficulty in the story mode is exceptionally easy. Granted, this makes for a more accessible experience for everyone. However, having a difficulty selector would be a nice bonus for those who want a challenge. As it currently stands, very few games have offered any real competition when going against the AI.
The game is split between the current 2020 games and 1964. You’ll be able to explore a world map of Tokyo and visit different districts. You can talk to characters and learn some history about the city and the Olympic games as you visit each venue. You’ll likely learn a few interesting tidbits along the way.
The playstyle is quite reminiscent of Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Each game is fast and snappy, usually taking only a minute or two to complete. You’ll find your traditional Olympic games like swimming, 100m dash, and discus throw. Though, Sega has added some new games into the fold. There are 21 games available in the standard mini-game menu. The level of enjoyment has been mixed between them all. Standouts so far have included skateboarding, the relay race, and javelin throw. Others have a large learning curve that I am still working on. For instance, gymnastics throws a lot of button inputs on the screen. If you slip up and miss, you’re not given any chance to recover. Sport climbing requires impeccable timing to grab each rock and climb to the top. Despite my many efforts, I’ve only been able to get halfway up the wall before time runs out. You’ll also have the option to play with motion controls or stick to button inputs. Most of my success has been through the traditional control scheme as the motion controls can be a bit finicky, especially when you need to be as accurate as possible.
In addition to the traditional, 3D games––which look gorgeous on both handheld and docked––the game offers a small array of 8-bit, 2D games to play through as well. There are a total of 10 minigames in this menu. The games within are simplified versions of the 3D games ie: 100m and hurdles. However, Sega has included 2D specific ones you won’t find outside of the 8-bit offerings. I’ve been spending a great deal with this smaller catalogue. 10m platform diving is a standout for me. It’s a simple design, yet requires precise timing and execution to nail those 10.0 point scores. Unfortunately, you’re only able to play as eight of the 20 available characters. With such a diverse lineup of characters, including Blaze, Waluigi, Bowser Jr., and Shadow, it would have been nice to see them crossover into the 8-bit glory days. Dream Events have returned and are a nice change of pace. Placing you in memorable locals ripped from Mario and Sonic, you’ll be able to play through a small series of games including Dream Shooting, which is hectic and downright fun.
There’s still a lot for me to explore and digest. With over 30 games to learn and master, and a deep campaign to complete, I’m looking forward to getting the full experience Sega has developed. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has been enjoyable on many fronts as a solo experience. However, the game ups the ante when playing online or with friends. At its core, it’s a delightful party game with a wide range of mini-games to offer.
Stay tuned for our full review on November 5th. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will launch on the same day, exclusively on Nintendo Switch.